What does the phrase lemon on mean in this context? Is it an idiom? What is its correct usage?

Excerpt from where I read this phrase:

... Hold on, for this deal, one that does not exist anywhere outside a very fertile imagination, could actually be a lemon on at least five counts. These are the lures that should alert you and beg a recheck before you book the deal.

Source: How to Avoid Common Travel Traps

closed as general reference by MetaEd, Matt E. Эллен, RegDwigнt Dec 11 '12 at 11:31

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • If it can be explained with reason for down voting, it would be helpful. One reason I could guess is that it is not really an idiom/phrase. I understood only after reading from answers here that it doesn't really constitute a phrase. Is this the only reason for down voting here? As said before, if it is explained with reason, that would help me in future postings. – Gnanam Sep 6 '11 at 6:01
  • I feel my question is asked well within the scope on what kind of questions be asked here. In this case, question is also about usage of the word lemon. – Gnanam Sep 6 '11 at 6:18
  • 2
    I didn't downvote, but I imagine it was because the question is "general reference" (too basic). When I Google define lemon, all the top five results include the "slang" meaning defective, especially, of a car. Your parsing error (thinking the problematic expression was "lemon on") may have added to your difficulty understanding what to look for, but I hope you will understand that there is at least some justification for the downvote. – FumbleFingers Sep 6 '11 at 12:35
  • 1
    lemon – Matt E. Эллен Dec 11 '12 at 8:52

The words lemon on don't really constitute a phrase. Here, the word lemon means something that is bad or defective. The prepositional phrase "on at least five counts" means that there are at least five reasons. This usage is from legalese where each individual charge against a person in called a count.

So the original statement

for this deal ... could actually be a lemon on at least five counts.

Can be restated as

for this deal ... could actually be defective for at least five reasons.

  • I'm reading a new word legalese from your comment. What does it mean? – Gnanam Sep 6 '11 at 5:28
  • 5
    legalese is found in any online dictionary… – F'x Sep 6 '11 at 5:54

One of the possible meaning of lemon (noun) is:

(informal) a person or thing, esp. an automobile, regarded as unsatisfactory, disappointing, or feeble.


I don't think 'lemon on' is a phrase here. The sentence should read as:

could actually be a lemon / on at least five counts

and the meaning of 'lemon' here is as F'x has said.

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